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U.S. Forces Mount Assault in Afghanistan - 2003-03-21


U.S. forces in Afghanistan are continuing operation "Valiant Strike", one of the largest searches in months for Taleban and Al-Qaida remnants in the mountains and caves of southern Kandahar province. Afghan soldiers, also taking part in the sweep, have reportedly made 12 arrests. The assault was launched after U.S. intelligence detected radio transmissions coming from caves above mountainside villages in Kandahar. Carol Pearson reports.

About 600 U.S. troops combed through villages in Kandahar province, where Taliban Chief Mullah Mohammed Omar has tribal links. Omar, Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden and others are wanted by the United States for their role in the September 11th attacks.

U.S. officials say the fact the operation was launched just hours after the U.S. led war on Iraq began is coincidental. They say it had been planned for more than two months.

The sweep is one of the biggest since Operation Anaconda last year, and U.S. troops are backed by attack helicopters.

A series of raids on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have followed the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected number three Al-Qaida figure. The operation is expected to continue for two or three days.

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